“Uncle Albert – Admiral Halsey” is a Paul McCartney’s song from the album RAM (1971). Here’s a little text I found on songfacts :
McCartney combined pieces of various unfinished songs to create this; in the later years of The Beatles, they did this a lot as a way to put unfinished songs to good use. As a result, “Uncle Albert – Admiral Halsey” contains 12 different sections over the course of its 4:50 running time. This jumble of musical textures, comic character voices, sound effects and changing tempos turned off a lot of listeners, but many others thought it was brilliant. The song wasn’t released as a single in the UK, but in America it became McCartney’s first #1 hit as a solo artist.
Oh, lovely, isn’t it?
I love this song, because it prevents you from drowning after one minute of a “cool seventies slow” with noises, surprises, changes. A big smile gets bigger all along : “Is Macca silly?”. Yeah!
There’s a famous Medley at the end of the Beatles album “Abbey Road”. McCartney says that they wanted to create a sort of “opera structure”. Lennon despised it, though. It’s considered today as one summit of the group.
When you listen to that (structure, noises, guitars), you think about Pink Floyd, who created in the Seventies like the epitome of this structured, fractured tracks sticked together in long classical-music-like “movements”.
Some examples : Pink Floyd “Pigs” (11 mn), Supertramp “Fool’s Overture” (11 mn), Genesis “Firth of Fifth” (9 mn).
The pleasure is bigger than the juxtaposition of tracks, you get pleasure in transitions (closing door, opening door), in contrasts, you get it in subsequent modulations, you build like a “little travel”, like through the rooms of a big surprizing house…
Lennon is funny, when he says it’s a very practical to dispose of music you don’t know what to do with!
Lennon is COOL because he uses this game, in a fractal way, in other songs like Did A Pony, sticking words together (like Dylan, he says) to see if something appears, AND sticking two different song together to make a new song.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juxtaposition : Throughout the arts, juxtaposition of elements is used to elicit a response within the audience’s mind, such as creating meaning from the contrast, an abrupt change of elements. In film, the position of shots next to one another (which montage is) is intended to have this effect.
So here we are, on the path of Progressive Rock! But there are differences. Prog rock wants to build long pieces – maybe with “parts” -, and they are damned serious!!
McCartney and The Beatles constructions are more like… medleys. This + this + that. And they have fun!
My principle/tool is :
- Choose the elements you already have and want to get rid of (things must probably be of the same nature (music + music))
- Juxtapose – stick!
- Be conscious of transitions
- Choose the order of parts
- Don’t take it too seriously
- Try, try, try
Whether you use it in poetry, novel writing, music, have fun!
Thanks for reading!
Here’s MGMT, 12 minutes of
Mike Oldfield, 24 minutes :